Must Love (Downward) Dogs

Ramblings of a Midwestern gal learning how to be Southern

Let’s Get Real About Positivity


I recently read this post by Kimberly Johnson titled “Count me out of the positivity cult”. While this could be considered a response to her post, it’s not really an argument against it per say. I thought she brought up some interesting points, and I really do agree with her stance, so definitely take the time to read it. However, it also brought up some deep feelings I had and provoked an impulse to defend positivity… and I’m about to get a bit more honest than I usually do.

From my blog, twitter, and basic attitude these days, some probably consider me to be a part of this “positivity cult” Kimberly describes. I completely see what she is saying about the yoga community in some ways stretching positivity so far that we walk on eggshells around each other, that we are in complete denial and claim outwardly that “everything is perfect” when everything sure as hell is not perfect. Let’s be real here, all I want to do right now is complain about how I am sick, how there’s no way I can start applying for jobs in Florida yet because I can’t afford to fly down there once a week for the next month to interview, and that classes just downright suck right now (besides that, I should be writing my paper not blogging at this specific moment). Outside of my own selfishness, shit is goin’ down in the world… Japan, Libya, you name it, there are problems all over the place. Really, nothing is perfect!! At all!!

However, when I try incredibly hard to be positive in all situations, it’s not me being in denial or trying to act like everything is perfect. Although my blog and my twitter tries to express nothing but positive thoughts, it’s because I just don’t see any use in wasting any more of my time being morose about life. Sure, maybe I am trying to “fake-it-until-I-make-it” as Kimberly puts it… but that’s how I get through things alive.

If I didn’t try to put everything into a positive spin, if I didn’t tell myself constantly that everything happens for a reason and I am put through hard times for a purpose, I’d be back where I was a year or two ago when I was convinced that things were so useless and horrible that taking my own life was the only option. I did not want to be slapped on a drug and numbed into oblivion for my depression… I wanted to fight it with my mind instead, and I do it every single day still. For me, positivity is not denial. For me and I’m sure many others like me, it’s flipping the script. It’s getting more out of life than being depressed all the time. It’s living.

This is why I appreciate the positivity cult, and this is why I appreciate the yoga community and it’s secret code. Although I must reiterate that I agree with Kimberly that there is definitely an irony in existence and so many people out there spew positivity because it’s what they think others want to hear… and I also must reiterate that you have got to read this post! But, I also had to point out that not all of us positivity junkies are full of phony baloney.

Author: Emily

Emily is a 28 year old resident of the Savannah, GA area living on a mini farm with her husband, two horses and a menagerie of house pets. A self diagnosed horse addict, and a would-be animal hoarder if her husband wasn't there to intervene, she spends her days "toiling away" in the barn and running her hobby sign painting business, Burlap Bohemian.

14 thoughts on “Let’s Get Real About Positivity

  1. I have to sort of agree with you here. I commented at Recovering Yogi and say your blog post in the comments…

    I have a blog where most of the time I bring in the sun rather than the clouds. Yes, I do question myself and show the holes in my own mental swiss cheese, but I try to end each with a twist that is decidedly less morose. Why? For exactly the same reasons you posted above: who the hell wants to read the stuff that everyone else is going through day in and day out. It’s not enjoyable. Ditto with Twitter because I find that if someone tweets negativity and complaints too much I stop reading their posts.

    I’m not all moonbeams and sunshine but on the mat, on the web and in my blog I try to be at least a little bit. Thanks for a thoughtful post. enjoyed it mightily.

  2. Emily –

    I think you and Kim are talking about two entirely different things. Both relevant. Both authentic. Kim never said that you couldn’t or shouldn’t be positive – she said that yoga teachers should stop spewing unfounded, false positives.

    Best wishes,


    • Kris-
      Precisely. I definitely don’t consider my viewpoint to be against Kim’s in any means, more like “food for thought” on the topic😀

  3. Thanks Emily for such an honest and thoughtful reply to Kimberly’s equally honest and thoughtful post. I love the dialog and think that it’s really valuable.

    From my perspective, there’s a crucial difference between the type of positivity that feels forced and obligatory, and the kind that feels deep and genuine. While the lines can of course get blurry, I think that essentially Kimberly is talking about the former, and you’re talking about the latter.

    Trying to fit into your yoga community’s unspoken paradigm of “positivity” is repression of the true self through social conformity. Similarly, insisting to yourself that you “must be positive” when you’re really feeling differently is psychological denial. It doesn’t work and won’t help anyone reach true positivity.

    Positivity to fight your way out of depression and insist on your life force is real positivity. It is important and inspiring. The determination that it takes shouldn’t be trivialized in any way.

    Still, the only real way out of negativity is through it. So ultimately I look for a positivity that’s comfortable acknowledging all of the pain and crap because there’s a deep confidence (born of experience) that it can be surmounted. That’s why I love teachers like Pema Chodoron – no one could call her lite or cheaply sunny, but no question that she offers deep positivity.

    Thanks again!

    • carol, like your interplay of how both perspectives are valid and have their places, thanks!

    • Carol,

      Thank you for your thoughts! I absolutely agree with your point, and you’ve helped me clarify further what I was trying to understand about distinguishing forced positivity from genuine positivity.

  4. I appreciate both Kimberly’s article and yours. How amazing that we have the space to vocalize both schools of thought! To be honest, I embrace both blogs as real to me. Positivity and love are sometimes authentic. And sometimes it is not. We must question when it is not and we must cherish when it is. But you gotta wonder.. in a world ridden with hate and violence; isn’t inauthentic and forced positivity better than nothing?

    • Thais,

      I love the question you have posed, and it’s one I have been pondering today as well: “isn’t inauthentic and forced positivity better than nothing?” I think in the case of interacting with others, sometimes it can be beneficial – I feel we should all be kindly positive to one another even if we aren’t exactly feeling it at the time. However, in the long run, as others have pointed out, this can be seen as repression if we are constantly drilling it into our brains to be positive. Makes my mind reel – Goes to show that even the most unlikely concepts can be a double edged sword.

  5. emily, two things i really liked about your post,

    one, providing the link to kimberly’s post; it’s honest open communication created

    two, your comment, “Sure, maybe I am trying to “fake-it-until-I-make-it” as Kimberly puts it… but that’s how I get through things alive….” –

    it’s fairly proven, both in the arts (theatre, dance, etc) and clinically, that “putting on a happy face” can change one’s mood and attitude

    there’s gonna be exceptions to most everything (some things should be experienced through and not “only” mantra’d out & some things have become habits that need re-phrasing)

    all in all, i can’t imagine this kind of open curious accepting dialog, about things yoga or otherwise, in a lot of other cultures around our globe…

    now if we only apply this to our political scene😉

    • Thank you for your comments, and thank you for pointing out the clinical fact that “putting on a happy face” can change an attitude. I can see how falsity and repression are negative implications of having this approach, but I can’t imagine how I would have ever been able to think more positively in the first place if I hadn’t forced it a little in the beginning. But as you said, there are exceptions to every rule.

  6. great post. I can completely see both sides of the whole positivity scene in yoga but to be honest i love the positive vibe in so much of the yoga community. there’s so much negativity in the world. why do we need to dwell on that negativity and bring it into our blogs or twitter pages? i completely hear what you’re saying about depression. happiness is the kind of thing that you always having to be making a conscious choice towards or else the downward spiral into depression can come upon you so quickly.

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  8. Hi Emily, Sorry it took me so long to respond. I was digesting and integrating all these thoughtful comments and responses I received including from you. So you may have already seen it, but here is my response. Positivity is Puny (compared to compassion and love)
    Love Kimberly

  9. Really enjoying this inquiry into the nature of positivity.

    If it’s appropriate, I think being open and honest about one’s mood – sad, grumpy, angry, frustrated etc. to students and colleagues in the ‘community’ suggests integrity. It takes courage and vulnerability to communicate these emotions without indulging, projecting or reacting. Helps build trust, understanding and confidence in relationship.
    Complaining and appointing blame as justification suggests something else.

    Like truth, false positivity carries a vibration that is instantly recognisable and can undermine trust, understanding and confidence.
    I find it a delightful inspiration when the speaker is evidently on a downer though can make light of their heavy emotions.
    Preferable to a forced smile and some vacuous maxim.

    The ability to laugh at one self may be one of the forgotten limbs…

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